Fuel Savings Guide

The Environmental and Financial Benefits of Aluminum Wheels

Truck wheels made from aluminum cost more money up-front, but they are the smarter investment in the long run.

The right set of tires can cut down on rolling resistance and increase fuel savings. To maximize fuel efficiency for your fleet, you might also consider using aluminum wheels.

Truck wheels forged from aluminum cost more money than steel wheels. A 22.5” by 8.25” steel wheel sells for between $100 and $140. An aluminum wheel in the same size can cost anywhere from $260 to $340. However, aluminum wheels are the smarter investment over the long run, both for the environment and a trucking company’s balance sheet.

Here are some of the key benefits of aluminum truck wheels:

Fuel Efficiency

Research shows that, when combined with low rolling resistance tires, aluminum wheels can reduce the fuel consumption of a tractor-trailer by 3% or more. Aluminum wheels substantially decrease the carbon footprint of commercial vehicles. A 2012 study of Alcoa Inc.’s forged aluminum wheels found trucks that switched from steel to aluminum reduced carbon emissions by 16.3 metric tons over the lifespan of the wheels. That reduction equals the carbon footprint of a U.S. household over a year’s time.

Weight

Aluminum wheels are much lighter than their steel counterparts. In 2014, Alcoa rolled out its Ultra One aluminum truck wheel, which weighs 47% less than a steel wheel of the same size. Another wheel manufacturer, Accuride International, reports that each of its aluminum wheels weigh 30 pounds less than a steel wheel.

Alcoa estimates its new aluminum wheels can lighten a rig by as much as 1,400 pounds. This weight reduction improves fuel efficiency and allows trucks to haul larger loads. That decreases the number of necessary hauls over time, further reducing the amount of fuel consumption.

Maintenance

Although they cost less to purchase, steel wheels are high-maintenance. Steel requires a lot of refurbishing such as removing rust, re-painting, and touch-up work. This leads to higher lifetime costs. In contrast, aluminum wheels can be cleaned with soap and water. If the manufacturer has given the aluminum wheel the proper surface treatments, the wheel should have a shiny appearance with minimal maintenance.

Durability

Because aluminum wheels are made from a one-piece process, they are usually better balanced, which makes for improved ride quality and less wear on tires. Newer aluminum wheel models are also stronger. Alcoa’s new aluminum alloy, MagnaForce, is 17% stronger than the industry standard. That strength leads to a longer working life.

Resale and End-of-Life

The durability and long life of aluminum wheels add value to your trucks, even when it is time to sell them. Research shows that trucks equipped with aluminum wheels have a higher trade-in value. Wheel manufacturers report that the resale value of aluminum wheels is typically more than 50% of the original investment as much as 10 years earlier.

Even at the end of their life, aluminum wheels have value because they are recyclable. They will never be taken to a landfill.

Sources: Alcoa Inc., Accuride International, Today’s Trucking, TruckingInfo.com, WasteAdvantage Magazine, Fleetowner.com